The number of locals competing in the Olympics has officially gone up by one – and it is a tasty addition to the roster.
Canmore Chef Blake Flann is headed to the Canadian Culinary Championships in February – considered the Olympics of national food competitions – and a Gold Medal Plates event to raise funds for athletes headed to PyeongChang next year.
Flann is one of 11 chefs set to compete in the competition, having won the Calgary Gold Medal Plate semifinal last Nov. 2.
The challenge saw the young chef go head-to-head with the best-of-the-best chefs from the Calgary food scene and take home the top prize – a moment that felt truly gratifying for the 29-year-old.
“I could not be more excited, I am honestly just waiting for the details for the final … as soon as I get all the information I will head right into planning it.”
Planning meticulously every detail of the dish he prepared – a gojuchang-lacquered briquette of pork belly – was part of the winning formula for Flann.
Served on garlic butter prawn paper, with yuzu pickled prawns, nori-dusted crispy ramen noodles, peanut dust, micro-greens and – the “most important part” – a 63-degree Celsius egg yolk.
“Feedback from guests at the event was phenomenal,” Flann said. “People were coming back for seconds and thirds.”
Paired with a 2016 Pinot Meunier called Bo-Teek from Vineland Estates in Niagara, the decision on the winner by the judges was unanimous.
“His dish acknowledged the coming winter Olympiad in South Korea,” wrote national culinary advisor James Chatto in his culinary report for the event.
“The surface crisply crusted with the sweet heat of the glaze, the flesh and fat inside succulent, melting and packed with flavour. The belly sat on a sheet of ‘prawn paper’ – firm prawn mousseline flavoured with garlic butter and thinly sliced – that also supported chunks of tart pickled raw prawn. More acid kicked in from yuzu juice pearls and there was crunch from crisp, nori-dusted ramen noodles. As a sauce that worked equally well with the prawn and the pork, chef finished the dish with an egg yolk, slightly cooked but still runny, with scattered peanut powder crumble and microgreens.”
The theme was the road to PyeongChange, with 700 guests and very limited resources provided to each chef, and Flann said it was definitely a challenge; especially when coming from out of town. He said there was no margin for error at all.
“We had to map it out and meticulously plan it all.”
There were 10 chefs competing in the Calgary semifinal and second place – or the silver – went to the River Café’s Matthias Fong and bronze to Dave Bohati from Teatro Ristorante.
In order to compete in Gold Medal Plates, chefs have to be invited. Flann has past experience at the competition, having been part of Chef Eden Hrabic’s 2012 team from Crazyweed.
Now Flann must wait for chef instructions for the final competition and he will prepare for a two-day event in Kelowna at the beginning of February. It is a much more complex event for chefs, with two days of challenges – including a black box round – leading to the finale.
The proceeds from the Gold Medal Plates events go to the Canadian Olympic Foundation, which supports athletes in high performance programs.
Since it began, the culinary competition has raised over $12 million for the foundation in support of athletes.